Low multiplicity cytomegalovirus infection of human aortic smooth muscle cells increases levels of major histocompatibility complex class I antigens and induces a proinflammatory cytokine milieu in the absence of cytopathology

B. Arkonac, K. A. Mauck, Sunwen Chou, J. D. Hosenpud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Background: Cytomegalovirus has been implicated in the development of allograft vasculopathy in heart transplant recipients. Given that allograft vasculopathy is a form of chronic rejection, it is conceivable that cytomegalovirus somehow alters the allogeneic response to the vasculature. Prior work has demonstrated that smooth muscle cells (SMCs) are highly permissive for cytomegalovirus and exhibit cytopathologic characteristics and alterations in MHC class I antigens in response to cytomegalovirus at a high multiplicity of infection (MOI). Methods: To determine whether cytomegalovirus at low, more clinically relevant MOI, can alter SMCs phenotypically, human aortic SMCs were infected with approximately 1 plaque forming units/3000 cells of cytomegalovirus strain AD169. Results: One week after infection, human aortic SMCs (compared with human foreskin fibroblasts) demonstrated no cytopathologic characteristics (n = 6), released reduced amounts of intact virion into the culture media (assessed by exposing naive monolayers of human foreskin fibroblasts to media and staining for cytomegalovirus immediate-early antigen, n = 3), yet had at least, if not greater detectable total cytomegalovirus vital DNA levels. Infected HASMCs uniformly increased their expression of MHC class I antigen by 55% ± 21% above constitutive levels (assessed by flow cytometry (n = 5, p <0.0001). Cytomegalovirus infection resulted in an increase in interleukin-6 mRNA expression compared to control (297 ± 63 vs 188 ± 50, respectively; p = 0.02, n = 6) and reduced the expression of transforming growth factor-β mRNA (802 ± 152 vs 1201 ± 236, respectively; p = 0.05). Conclusions: These data suggest that low MOI of cytomegalovirus can infect SMCs without producing cell cytolysis and, in spite of this lack of overt infection, modulate cell surface antigens and cytokine mRNA levels that can influence allogeneic responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1035-1045
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Heart and Lung Transplantation
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Transplantation

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